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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ring of Lies

Roni Dunevich

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To purchase Ring of Lies

Title: Ring of Lies
Author: Roni Dunevich
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 466 pages
Original in: Hebrew
Availability: Ring of Lies - US
Ring of Lies - UK
Ring of Lies - Canada
Agguato ai Nibelunghi - Italia
  • Hebrew title: עמוק מבפנים
  • Translated by Sara Kitai

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Our Assessment:

B- : zips along -- and goes way over the top

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 5/9/2016 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ludlum fans will find the sensational plot turns enjoyable, but le Carré readers should look elsewhere." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Ring of Lies is the third of Roni Dunevic's thrillers featuring Alex Bartal, but the first (and currently only) one available in English. Readers do learn some of what he's been through before -- the personal and the professional overlapping in tragedy (and leading to, for example, his daughter convalescing in Italian isolation, where he drops by in this installment before eventually whisking her away) -- but what character-building there is is, as a result, in summary form, quick recaps -- less than ideal for a character in a novel that, like this one, is all breathless rush.
       Of course, Ring of Lies is an action novel -- all action, practically -- and doesn't pretend to be much more. There doesn't need to be much substance to protagonist Alex Bartal, or any depth, psychological or otherwise. Of course he's a slightly tortured soul, and that's easy enough to present -- but he's not really given sufficient time to reflect on much of anything. Though there would be a hell of a lot to reflect on, as the bodies (and frequent-flier miles) are racked up at alarming speed.
       Alex runs operations for Mossad, and when the novel opens one is going catastrophically wrong in Turkey. In real time Mossad headquarters follows a mission gone bad, agents falling in a trap, being shot and captured. It's a major mission failure -- but it's also just the tip of an iceberg.
       There's a top secret organization supporting Mossad called the Nibelung Ring:

The Nibelungs are sleeper agents who ive in major European capitals, local citizens with reliable covers. Some of them have families. They assassinate, sabotage, burglarize, and keep suspects under surveillance as skillfully as we do. They work alone. Nibelungs can lie dormant for years, wake up, kill two people in a few seconds, and then go back to sleep for another long period.
       Only the head of Mossad, Reuven Hetz, and the Israeli prime minister know the name of the man running the Nibelungs, but now these top secret agents, whose identity is supposed to be top secret, are being picked off, one by one, and so Alex is let into the loop. He learns that Justus Erlichmann, an incredibly wealthy German, is the man who organizes and supports the Nibelung activities. (No subtlety here: 'Justus' echoes 'justice'; 'Erlichmann' is practically 'ehrlich-mann' -- 'honest-man' in German.)
       A race to figure out who is behind the decimation of the Nibelungs is on -- but after a brief meeting with Justus things go wrong and soon enough all indications are that Justus too has been killed. Alex still has hopes that the secrets of the Nibelungs can be found somewhere in Justus' packed villa -- and fortunately he has incredible Mossad resources to rely on (even if they are only grudgingly provided by Hetz). But it's not easy to find how Justus communicated with his agents -- and even when Alex and his helpers manage to find out more it only gets them so far.
       Alex gets the help of 'London', the one Nibelung he knows, Jane Thompson, who can also provide more insight into the organization. It's clear the group has been badly compromised, however, as danger lurks at every corner as they try to save the few agents that still can be saved. Criss-crossing Europe, Alex does his best, but the forces he is up against seem to be a step ahead of him -- and close on his heels, as well.
       A variety of conspiracies, possible and real, complicate matters. Hetz, for one, isn't nearly as helpful as one might hope, his political ambitions leading him to try to foist responsibility elsewhere, so that he won't take any blame for everything that's going wrong. And then there's a money-trail that suggests even Justus was funding neo-Nazis on the side -- perhaps he wasn't really supporting the Israeli cause all along ?
       Alex still has trouble with Germans in general, not just unable to forgive for the crimes of the Second World War. And in Dunevich's world there certainly are Germans who haven't moved on -- or rather who want to resurrect the past, including in a very literal manner.
       There's a lot of killing, on both sides, and if it's not entirely gratuitous it certainly can occasionally feel excessive. Alex is all no-holds-barred attitude -- as are those he's fighting -- but sometimes seems to jump the gun, as in his disposing of an informant who might have been better kept alive. But this is the kind of no-nonsense thriller where the hero can respond to a question such as:
     "Why did you have to torture him ?"
     "What would you have done, asked him nicely ?"
       Because here, of course, torture easily works and gets you all the answers .....
       Brief scenes from the past -- mainly the occupation of Paris during the Second World War -- are interspersed through the narrative too, suggesting a connection to present-day events that is eventually revealed
       The web leads also to Syria; Alex can't go there, but two other agents manage to do what must be done.
       The truth behind it all is bigger than anyone could have imagined -- but then everything is bigger: from Justus's fortune to the catastrophe of what has happened:
     Since this crisis began, we have lost more agents than in the whole history of the country. We have lost the protective shield around Mossad, and Israel itself.
       Special training facilities, bio-warfare, and even private gas chambers all feature in a book that ultimately goes way over the top -- gratuitously, often, because Dunevich just heaps a lot of this on without even doing very much with it (and certainly not dwelling seriously on the implications). And since neo-Nazi Germans aren't enough, Dunevich even involves an authentic, historical Nazi -- almost, it seems, just for the pleasure of being able to do away with him, resolving a bit of open-ended post-war history and mystery.
       Presented in short chapters headlined by place and (precise) time, this is a novel of constant, fast shuffling. It is literally all over the place -- breathlessly jumping from one locale to the next. Despite the long hours the characters must be spending traveling by plane and car there's almost no respite -- everything is almost one constant rush.
       Snappy dialogue- and short, clipped description-heavy, the novel moves along in a blur -- all the better, because it doesn't withstand much closer scrutiny. It's readable enough, but Dunevich never stops heaping (unbelievable) stuff on, including some of the closing twists, and it feels more like comic-strip fiction than an even vaguely plausible or realistic story.
       There's some entertainment value here, but this is wildest fantasy, and the simplistic world-view -- which includes no little cynicism about Israel too ("A person with principles and scruples will not win an election in Israel these days", someone observes) -- is disturbing.
       Colorful but shallow, Ring of Lies is fine if low-grade fast and action-packed pass-time reading.

- M.A.Orthofer, 23 October 2016

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Ring of Lies: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Israeli author Roni Dunevich (רוני דונביץ) was born in 1961.

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© 2016 the complete review

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